Nuts Can Prolong Your Life

Just a handful a day

The results of the study apply to any nut, even peanuts (which aren't technically nuts). (Svetl/Thinkstock)

Studies have long shown that incorporating nuts into your diet has many benefits: reducing the chance of memory loss, improving blood sugar levels, lowering the risk of heart attack, decreasing fat accumulation around internal organs, lowering blood pressure, and reducing gallstones.

Add increased longevity to that list, as a study released yesterday reports that participants who ate a handful of nuts every day were 20 percent less likely to die of heart disease, cancer, or any other cause over 30 years than those who didn't.

The research team—from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health—looked at two long-term observational studies, one conducted since 1976 and the other since 1986, wherein volunteers were asked every few years how often they had a serving of nuts (including peanuts, despite their being legumes).

Those who ate nuts more than seven times a week showed a 20 percent lower death rate. They were also "leaner, less likely to smoke, more likely to exercise, and more likely to use multivitamin supplements," the study reports.

"We are really looking to understand what are the bioactive compounds in nuts," says Charles Fuchs, director of the Center for Gastrointestinal Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and leader of the team. It could be that nuts are simply replacing unhealthy snack options, but Fuchs suspects that there's an inflammatory or metabolic effect.

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